With warm weather, fishing is still looking up
It isn’t often you might plan a fishing safari for the first week of December, but so far this isn’t a normal winter.
As skiers and boarders join resort owners anxiously eyeing clear skies, a few anglers are taking advantage of mild temperatures and the late-fall hunger of post-spawn brown trout.
“We fished the Uncompahgre River below the dam Sunday and by 11 o’clock we were taking off our hats and gloves,” recounted Phil Trimm, shop manager at Western Anglers fly shop in Grand Junction.
“It was a beautiful day, sort of like today is starting out,” Trimm said Monday morning, peeking out the shop’s glass doors at far-ranging blue skies. “We started using nymphs but the fish were hitting our strike indicators so we switched to dry flies.”
Fishing dry flies in the winter usually means imitating the ubiquitous midge hatch with mote-like puffs of steel and thread in sizes ranging from small to much-too-small.
“No, we were using a size 12 parachute Adams, it was great,” he said.
The late-arriving snow and cold has extended fall fishing for at least another week and longer, if you don’t mind the forecast for high-country snow starting this weekend.
Which means the decision facing Grand Junction-based anglers isn’t whether to go but where to go.
“One thing about living here, we have lots of great water within an hour of us,” said Trimm, speaking from his personal experience of having tested most, if not all, the waters. “And if you go two hours, there’s more water than you can fish in a lifetime.”
It’s doubtful you’ll see Methuselah on the water. In fact, you might not see anyone.
“We fished Pah-Co-Chu-Puk (at Ridgway State Park) three weeks ago and that’s usually a really popular stretch of river and we didn’t see another angler until noon,” said Trimm, who can be reached at 244-8658. “There are some big fish in that section. I caught a 22-inch brown there.”
It’s not just the Uncompahgre that’s short of fishing pressure. You’ll find plenty of wading room on the Fryingpan River, too.
“Yeah, it’s pretty much slowed down, but you can’t blame it on the fishing,” said Kirk Webb at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt. “Right now, the ‘Pan is flowing about 75 cfs, which is about average for this time of year. You couldn’t ask for a more-perfect water level.”
A recent check of the Fryingpan (hey, somebody has to do the research) revealed gin-clear waters with trout spread out from bank to bank. Eight anglers were counted in one 6-mile stretch.
“The brown trout spawn is about over, although it’s not uncommon to see some browns spawning into February,” said Webb, attributing that lagging breeding season on the steady water temperatures issuing from Ruedi Dam. “So you want to be careful where you wade and avoid the redds.”
Redds are trout “nests,” clear spots in the gravel bottom where the female deposits her eggs. The redds usually are easy to see, clean spots in the river bed swept clear of silt by the parent fish.
The spawn means loose trout eggs floating in the river and that’s normally the “fly” pattern of choice. But in both cases, Trimm and Webb said it’s not too late to try some top-water action.
“On these warmish days, the fish are still looking up,” said Webb, who can be reached at 970-927-4374. “We’re talking Baetis patterns, parachute Adams and such. I spent a whole day up there fishing nothing but dries.”
With post-spawn browns eager to pack on some calories before winter really arrives, this also is a great time to throw some streamers.
“Oh, yeah, streamers are greaws time of year,” said Trimm, digging into the boxes of streamers displayed at Western Anglers. “Anglers should always carry a couple of streamers with them.”
Webb held out several of his favorites, including the Sculpzilla and the Will Sands-tied Stinging Sculpin. Both flies are tied with extended hooks, the better to tie into short-hitting trout.
“We use sizes 6 and 8 on the Fryingpan and sizes 2 through 6 on the Roaring Fork and the Colorado” rivers, Webb said. “There are a lot of sculpins in all those rivers and the trout really take advantage of that food source.”